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Mileage Reimbursement in California

The federal government does not require that employers reimburse for mileage. When employees pay for work related expenses, the employer has no obligation to pay them back. (There are exceptions like when expenses cause employees to fall below minimum wage.)

Except, that is, in California. Mileage reimbursement in California is required.

California law protects employees from bearing the burden of business expenses and so they must reimburse their employees when they drive.

California employers do not have to reimburse the IRS rate. They may instead reimburse actual expenses incurred. If they choose to do it this way, they must keep meticulous records of mileage and receipts. Using the IRS rate is generally easier, however.

From the California Labor Code:

2802. (a) An employer shall indemnify his or her employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer, even though unlawful, unless the employee, at the time of obeying the directions, believed them to be unlawful.

(b) All awards made by a court or by the Division of Labor
Standards Enforcement for reimbursement of necessary expenditures under this section shall carry interest at the same rate as judgments in civil actions. Interest shall accrue from the date on which the employee incurred the necessary expenditure or loss.

(c) For purposes of this section, the term “necessary expenditures or losses” shall include all reasonable costs, including, but not limited to, attorney’s fees incurred by the employee enforcing the rights granted by this section.


  1. Sharrah Thompson
    Sharrah Thompson July 15, 2018

    When youre considered as 1099 employee, what is the law for mileage reimbursement, expense reimbursement, traveling reimbursement?

    • Mark D
      Mark D March 6, 2019

      There are no 1099 employees only 1099 contractors–

  2. Chuck Yates
    Chuck Yates September 5, 2018

    On a recent job offer which requires a plethora of driving, I was told the $0.55 per mile was to include an increase in insurance coverage to the requirements when doing work of their client (s).

    The offer was somewhat of a joke, but this does not sound right to me. i had done work for a Telecom client as a consultant, but in acting as a consultant this was an expense of doing business which is a legitimate right off for the corporation, but I do not believe it is if you are an employee

  3. Joseph Larsen
    Joseph Larsen January 7, 2019

    I work for a independent mobile technical company that handles contracts in various hospitals across the state in CA. They recently decided to no longer pay our mileage expenses from our homes (which are considered our “office location” in our policy literature), and instead arbitrarily decided to claim the “nearest hospital location” as our “home” in order to reduce mileage expenditures incurred for those of us who commute to those facilities. My question: is this allowance considered fair practice in CA and can a mobile independent contract company impose these kinds of travel expense limitations legally?

    • Angela Vogel
      Angela Vogel September 11, 2019

      I had to have this fight when I worked for Samsung a few years ago and won because the law does not support their argument. If your home is your office, then that is where your day, and your expenses, begin. I would fight this if I were you.

  4. Christy Davis
    Christy Davis March 27, 2019

    I was told my my employer here in California they will only pay .35 cents they quoted – me this: 0.58 is the maximum rate the IRS would allow to be reimbursed tax free but the current approved rate for us is 0.35.

    Is this true?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers April 2, 2019

      Employers are free to reimburse more or less than the IRS rate as long their state doesn’t have its own requirements and as long as any lack of reimbursement does not cause the employee’s wages to fall below minimum wage. California employers do not have to reimburse the IRS rate. They may instead reimburse actual expenses incurred.

  5. Alisia Amaya
    Alisia Amaya May 9, 2019

    My employer is saying that I can only expense mileage outside of a “regular commute,” so…the first 50 miles are not able to be expensed. Only those that I incur in between my travel to and from work. Is this true?

    • timesheets_blog
      timesheets_blog May 20, 2019

      The IRS doesn’t require employers to pay for any mileage that an employee travels from home to work or vice versa. Since this is California law, you will want to talk to your local labor board to ensure that this is applies to California as well.

  6. MF
    MF June 4, 2019

    Do you have a list of states that require travel and expense reimbursements? I can’t seem to find a list anywhere.

    • timesheets_blog
      timesheets_blog June 5, 2019

      We wouldn’t be the right place to find a list like that. You’ll have to research this one on your own, unfortunately. Side note: I’m not sure there’s a law anywhere that specifies expenses paid by an employee must be reimbursed, as wouldn’t there first need to be a law that specifies an employer can require an employee to pay company bills? Without the horse, you might not need the cart.

  7. TC
    TC July 22, 2019

    For company fleet vehicle drivers who have a payroll fixed personal use deduction, & also record monthly personal usage mileage; is it appropriate for them to not allow gas card usage when on leave or vacation? If so, what if the recorded personal mileage is less than the personal use monthly charge?

  8. M Rambler
    M Rambler August 5, 2019

    My new employer is training me at a store that is 35 miles from the store that I was hired for (although there is a much closer location, only 16 miles away). I asked about mileage reimbursement during my interview and they said they’d look into it. They later verbally agreed that I would be reimbursed for my mileage until my home store opened.

    I have been working for them for a month now and after asking several times, they have finally told me that they will not be reimbursing me for any of my mileage. I am making minimum wage, so I believe this would qualify as work related expenses causing me to fall below minimum wage.

    Are they legally required to pay me for my mileage/travel time?

  9. N Rogers
    N Rogers October 28, 2019

    I quit my job and my employer didn’t include my mileage reimbursement in my final paycheck. I was told that I would get the reimbursement 24 days after I quit. The date is the regular payment date I would have been paid if I would have still been working with the company. I am in California and I thought the law requires employers to pay all final reimbursements and pay within 72 hours of quitting otherwise a waiting time penalty would apply. Is this not the case if it’s mileage reimbursement I’m waiting for?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers November 10, 2019

      I believe the waiting period is 30 days for compensation. To be sure, I would check with a legal counsel or the CA state labor board for more guidance.

  10. Anthony
    Anthony December 5, 2019

    I am an employer. My employee drives my van and now wants me to pay for all the gas including his normal commute from home to the job. Am I obligated to pay for the commute as well?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers December 6, 2019

      Employers are not required to pay for reimbursement from the employee’s residence to the official work station and vice versa. You are only required to reimburse the employee when they are traveling from job site to job site.

  11. Mary
    Mary December 17, 2019

    My employer asks that we first deduct 60 miles from any mileage reimbursements we submit; I was told by HR that they do not pay for the first 60 miles as that’s considered allowable commuter mileage to get to work’s location.
    I rarely have any mileage to submit as I’m mostly in the office however on occasion I’ll need to visit a job site that is generally more than 30 miles away. So this means if I drive to a job site that is 40 miles away (80 miles roundtrip), I’ll only be reimbursed for 20 miles worth? Is this accurate/legal?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers December 24, 2019

      California employers are required by law to reimburse employees for any miles driven for work purposes; however, they do not have to reimburse employees when they’re traveling from their residence to their official work station. Employers either have to reimburse for all mileage using the IRS rate, or they must reimburse the employee based on mileage and receipt records. I’m unfortunately not familiar with “allowable commuter mileage”– you may want to consider speaking with your local labor board to ensure that your work’s policy is legal.

  12. liz alber
    liz alber January 20, 2020

    I work in California and my work is saying they will only reimburse .40 cents per mile. Is that true? I’m confused?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers January 20, 2020

      If you are a resident of California employers do not have to reimburse the IRS rate. In fact, as long as you’re getting a full reimbursement, your employers are fine. They have the option to reimburse actual expenses incurred or they can use another method. In some cases, it’s actually better that they reimburse you with their own reimbursement rate rather than your actual expenses incurred; here’s why: If you used the actual expenses incurred method and you drove 119 miles with gas being about $3.59/GAL, your trip would cost you about $17 on gas (depending on your car)– that means you would get reimbursed $17. However, if you got reimbursed with a 0.40/mile reimbursement rate, you would get $47.60 of reimbursements. If you look at it this way, you can see that getting a 0.40 reimbursement rate is a pretty sweet deal.

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